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June 1, 2008

HHS Students Ask Mayor About Town Hall Project

Photos by Quentin Ross; captions by Katie Esposito

The picture above is an outline of the future town center/police station project. Mayor Henrici of Hamden stated: “Every mayor has acknowledged that we need a new police facility.” The project aims to keep the police in the center of town.

The picture shown above is a blueprint of the lower level of the future town center. The project is said to cost over $1 million and is expected to be completed three years from January. They hope to break ground this fall.

The picture above shows different views of the proposed town center.  Mayor Henrici said, “Spend the same amount building a new facility as renovating the old one.” Ron Gambardella, former mayoral candidate against Henrici, commented: “The mayor has made a ridiculous argument and it will be better to build a new facility.”

This picture shows different angles of the projected police station. It will be an addition onto the old Town Hall. Gambardella said, “You can find a better location that is more cost-effective and more green [environmentally sound] building." He believes that would save money in the long run.

In our exclusive interview with the mayor, we discovered that the mayor feels the project is “pretty much a done deal” and the Town Council has passed an ordinance for 5/6 for the budget approval. The plans are completed and another hearing will take place soon on the budget for construction.

After our interview, we caught up with Council President Al Gorman (D).  His views on the project coincide with those of Mayor Henrici's. During our phone interview with Ron Gambardella (R), when asked about his future political plans, he said that he will “gain the Republican nomination and challenge the Democratic nominee.” He also said that “with this current plan, the mayor is setting up major problems for the next mayor.” When questioned about Mr. Gambardella's loss in the last election,  Mayor Henrici wished him “better luck next year.”

The picture above shows the current Hamden police station. Henrici feels that it is evident that the facilities our police officers are working in are in bad shape.

This picture shows the old Town Hall located in the middle of town. Henrici says that “it is a great building of immense historical power. To say it's underutilized is obvious.” He feels that it is a sad sight to see it almost abandoned. Hamden Memorial Town Hall was added in April 2001 to the National Register of Historic Places.

May 24, 2008

School Budget Blues

Expected deficit is realized

By Sharon Bass

The school department won’t be returning any money to the town at the end of this fiscal year. It will have no surplus. In fact, it has a hole.

Some $821,079 deep. Next Tuesday, the Town Council will vote on whether to approve funding and amending the 2007-08 $74.1 million school budget to take it out of the red.

The deficit is all about special education, said Board of Ed Finance Chair Ed Sullivan. Those costs came in higher -- some $821,079 higher -- than predicted. There was an “influx” of special ed students this school year, he said, but was unsure how many more enrolled than expected or the total amount of the special ed tab.

“Every year it fluctuates. This was an unusual year. A big fluctuation,” said Sullivan.  “It’s really hard to predict [the number of special ed students]. It’s an educated guess.” He said special ed enrollment can double in one year.

The $821,079 will come from the state, not the local coffers, said BOE member Austin Cesare. State school aid now goes to the town, which hands it over to the schools. Last year, the town auditors recommended having all education revenue go to the town side instead of the schools, because of financial record-keeping flaws uncovered during the audit.

“When the money comes to the town the town has to give it to the Board of Education,” said Cesare. “It’s a temporary deficit. I’ve been told that [the money] is coming from the state.”

Not news

School Finance Director Tom Pesce informed the BOE last November that there might be a budget shortfall because of escalating special ed costs.

“The minute we found out, we put a spending freeze on,” said Sullivan.

The actual amount of the deficit was learned less than a month ago, he said. “We notified the mayor and the [town] finance director as we are supposed to,” he said.

“Keep in mind that for ’07-’08, the council reduced [the school budget] by $500,000,” said Sullivan. “If they didn’t cut the $500,000, we’d only be looking at a $300,000.”

The Council shaved $300,000 from the $77 million school budget for 2008-09.

April 11, 2008

Change, Change, Change
Words and pictures by Sharon Bass

That's Ridge Hill fifth-grade teacher Larry Stein getting his head shaved this afternoon by one of his students in the school gym. Stein went to Ridge Hill when he was a kid. Nine years ago, he started a "change drive" at the school. Students search for coins in their homes by digging through sofa cushions, looking under rugs, cleaning out their piggybanks, etc., and bring it all to class.

The money goes to a charitable effort. This year the kids found more than $1,700 in pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters -- or 763 pounds of metal cash -- which will go to the American Cancer Society's annual Hamden/North Haven Relay for Life.

That's sixth-grade teacher Will Ortoleva about to experience his first head-shaving. Anyway, the two classes that accumulate the heaviest loads get to shave their teachers' heads. Stein's students came in No. 1 with 137 pounds of change. Sixth-grade teacher Kelly Wade's class brought in 61 pounds, thought to be the second highest (it was later determined it was fourth)..

Still, Wade's shaving honor was upheld. But Ortoleva stepped in and committed a chivalrous act: He offered to spare his locks for hers. Ortoleva said his girlfriend isn't talking to him at the moment.

What a din! The entire Ridge Hill student body of 370 files into the gym to watch students shave the heads of two teachers.

This isn't a first for teacher Stein. Click arrow to watch his students shave his head.


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